Gordon strikes against Manchester United to boost Everton survival hopes | Premier League

It will not rank as the finest goal of Anthony Gordon’s career but it could prove the most important. The boyhood Evertonian brought his club a precious victory in their increasingly fraught attempt to avoid relegation as Manchester United’s top-four prospects suffered a serious setback.

Gordon’s deflected first-half strike was the difference between an Everton team that scrapped for their lives and a United side that is disgracefully going through the motions. They enjoyed plenty of possession but a spiritless, dispassionate display underlined the extent of the task the caretaker manager will bequeath to the likely successor Erik ten Hag.

Frank Lampard still faces a considerable job of his own keeping Everton in the top flight but here was the response he craved to accusations his players lack the character and quality to survive. Ben Godfrey was immense in central defence, Fabian Delph and Alex Iwobi tireless in midfield, while Richarlison and Vitalii Mykolenko gave everything to preserve a crucial three points.

Apprehension had stalked Goodison after two damaging, self-destructive defeats at West Ham and Burnley that had pushed Everton closer to the trapdoor and heightened suspicions their players are mentally shot. Lampard responded by recalling Allan and Michael Keane from suspension, dropping Abdoulaye Doucouré and turning to the experience of Delph in central midfield. It was the 32-year-old’s seventh appearance of another injury-plagued season but his 200th in the Premier League overall.

Delph and Allan provided a deep but valuable shield to a defense that caused its own problems given Keane’s tendency to concede possession cheaply.

Man United's Cristiano Ronaldo shoots at the Everton goal.
Man United’s Cristiano Ronaldo shoots at the Everton goal. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

It was a game of meagre quality, as expected from a team mired in relegation trouble but not one with aspirations of qualifying for the Champions League. United weathered a bright but brief Everton opening with minimal fuss to dominate possession and force their hosts into a retreat. Jordan Pickford saved well from Marcus Rashford after Delph headed a Bruno Fernandes free-kick dangerously towards the United striker as he lurked unmarked on the edge of the penalty area.

The Everton goalkeeper denied Rashford again, with a smart save low to his right, when Fernandes’s inviting cross found the forward leaping between two defenders.

Everton had threatened little. Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s arduous recovery from long-term injury tested the patience of the home crowd, as did Allan when dispossessed in midfield by Cristiano Ronaldo. Yet Everton found a lifeline in the aftermath. Gordon threw himself into a challenge to regain possession and suddenly Lhis side were on the front foot. Richarlison’s attempt to find Iwobi inside the area was intercepted by Nemanja Matic, starting in place of the injured Scott McTominay, but his touch found Gordon alone outside the box. He drilled a shot goalwards, David de Gea had it covered, but it took a huge deflection off Harry Maguire’s hip and sailed beyond the wrong-footed keeper. A little of the considerable weight on Everton lifted.

Keane headed over from a Gordon free-kick moments later. Richarlison almost made it two with a second deflected goal when, having trapped Pickford’s long clearance beautifully, his shot looped up and over De Gea via Victor Lindelof’s heel. The keeper reacted superbly to tip over his bar. The same could not be said of his teammates.

Frank Lampard celebrates with Everton's fans after the 1-0 win.
Frank Lampard celebrates with Everton’s fans after the 1-0 win. Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Images/Reuters

The visitors lost Fred to a first-half injury but the introduction of Paul Pogba did nothing for the urgency or creativity of their performance. Rangnick implored a response on the touchline, Ronaldo made his annoyance plain too, picking up a late booking for kicking a dead ball into the crowd, but the end product was nonexistent. What few promising situations they did create were repelled by Godfrey and Keane, who delivered a vastly improved second-half display.

Everton sought to protect their lead for much of the second half goal had a penalty appeal waved away when Gordon went down in a tussle with Alex Telles. Neither the referee, Jonathan Moss, nor VAR were moved.

There was angst in the home ranks when the fourth official, Martin Atkinson, signaled five minutes of stoppage time. Ronaldo had one fine chance when Maguire headed into his path but Pickford made a vital save once again and Everton were reprieved.

Richarlison, Iwobi and Mykolenko all collapsed to the ground in sheer exhaustion and relief on the final whistle. They are not done yet.

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